Jackson Galaxy

    Photos Andrew Marttila

    Photo courtesy Jackson Galaxy.

    Helping Cats Everywhere Find Their Mojo

    For 10 years, Jackson Galaxy has been saving the relationships between cats and their guardians on Animal Planet’s hit show My Cat From Hell. Both its star and executive producer, America’s favorite “Cat Daddy” is also a two-time New York Times bestselling author who has spent most of his adult life trying to teach people what a cat needs to live happy and healthy. He also spends a lot of his time trying to reduce the number of cats in shelters and on the streets. On the show, Galaxy works with people who are at their wit’s end, struggling to coexist with a cat that is making them crazy and driving a wedge between relationships. Outside the show, The Jackson Galaxy Project, founded in 2015, helps give shelters and rescue workers the tools to train cats in their care to find their “mojo” and be ready for life as a confident cat in their forever homes.

    Cat mojo is the crux of Jackson’s work, the moniker for his unique philosophy that cats need to be encouraged to follow their instincts and behave as cats so they can live confidently. Cat guardians need to create an environment where a cat can unapologetically “hunt, catch, kill and eat,” as nature intended. Viewers of My Cat From Hell find that many of the behavioral “problems” cats exhibit are nothing more than frustration, fear, and sometimes boredom. Frequently, the only problem is that they’re trying to live in an environment that quashes their normal cat instincts.

    Jackson prefers the term “guardian” over “owner.” With his respect for all living beings, it goes against his grain to imply that a cat is owned. “It’s a relationship, it’s not ownership. And, just as with all relationships, every cat comes with its own baggage,” he emphasizes. “We all do.” Like humans, a cat’s experiences, past hurts, and learned fears contribute to its behavior and unique needs. And, Jackson explains, it’s our job as cat guardians to tap into those needs and create a space for our cats that is safe and cat-friendly.

    Watching Jackson work, it’s easy to think he has some kind of sixth sense, almost a supernatural ability to “read” cats and know what they need. But if there’s one thing Jackson Galaxy wants you to know, it’s that giving your cat back his mojo is something you can do—on your own. “There is no magic to what I do. It’s not supernatural, it’s not a gift, and there’s no secret behind it,” he explains. “Anyone can do it.” In fact, that’s the point of his show—to show cat guardians that by creating an environment that makes cats feel safe, challenged and confident, you can change their behavior. “But it takes patience and commitment—the best solution is never the overnight fix. You have to put in the time and the work.”

    Jackson has authored four books, including two New York Times best-sellers— Catify to Satisfy: Simple Solutions for Creating a Cat-Friendly Home (with Kate Benjamin) and Catification: Designing a Happy and Stylish Home for Your Cat (and You!) (also with Kate Benjamin). Then there’s his first book, Cat Daddy: What the World’s Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean (with Joel Derfner) and the latest, Total Cat Mojo: The Ultimate Guide to Life With Your Cat (with Mikel Delgado). In all his books, he reveals a lot about his personal life and his journey to becoming The Cat Daddy.

    A talented musician with a lifelong dream to play professionally, Jackson lived and worked in Boulder, Colorado, for 15 years, playing at such venues as the Fox Theatre, which was named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s best music venues in the country. The rock and roll life had its ups and downs—in fact, Jackson found himself facing addiction and struggling to find a way out. He accepted a job at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley (HSBV) and it was there that he found lifesaving hope in a gravely injured cat named Benny. While at work one day, Jackson saw a car pull up and drop a cardboard box at the shelter door. Spying the cat inside, he chased the car down and spoke to the driver, who told him Benny was hit by a car and had a broken pelvis, but he was an “unbondable” cat and she just didn’t know what to do with him.

    The term hit home for Jackson. After years of addiction, he felt he’d destroyed all his relationships to the point that he himself felt “unbondable.” He took Benny on, getting him the medical help he needed and spending the next 13 years proving the woman who abandoned him wrong. Benny was tough, a real challenge. But this challenge was just what Jackson needed—he saw some of himself in Benny, and in saving him, he saved himself. He committed to staying sober to give Benny and all the shelter animals his best, and it worked.

    During his 10 years working at the HBSV, Jackson helped reduce the euthanasia rate there by working with thousands of cats on their confidence and behavior. He kept many cats from being dropped at the shelter by visiting private homes to work with cats and their people, much like he does today on My Cat From Hell. He wants people to understand that cats have to be cats and to dispel the myth that they’re all “aloof” and “independent.” “We have to stop looking at cats through dog-colored glasses,” he implores. “They weren’t bred as companion animals for thousands of years as dogs were.” An eye-opening thought for many cat guardians, it turns out.

    After a decade at HBSV, now clean and sober, Jackson set out for Los Angeles to work on his music. Still educating people about cats, someone pitched him the idea for a show like My Cat From Hell. A pilot was filmed, and it quickly found its place on Animal Planet. And ten years later, Jackson is still rocking. He’s still playing his music, and still saving cats and the people who love them. He’s been featured on countless television shows, including 20/20, The Today Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show, and EXTRA, as well as in the New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post, among other publications.

    ANDREW MARTTILA

    Photo ANDREW MARTTILA

    In January, Jackson embarked on a three-city live tour through Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey, called Total Cat Mojo Live. In this fun, interactive stage show, Jackson shares not only his expertise in the importance of finding your cat’s mojo but also his love of music, comedy and even puppetry. He’ll be adding more tour dates this year, so visit JacksonGalaxy.com to see if he’ll be coming to a city near you. Also look for the fourth annual Jackson Galaxy’s Cat Camp, to be held June 6th and 7th at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York. Head Camp Counselor Jackson will be joined again this year by co-founder Christina Ha, co-owner of Meow Parlour, NYC’s first cat café, as well as plenty of speakers, adoptable cats, and cat lovers from all over. Last year, 5,000 attendees enjoyed workshops, classes, arts & crafts and more during this special cat-focused weekend adventure. You can find out more about this year’s cat camp at CatCamp.com.

    ANDREW MARTTILA

    Photo ANDREW MARTTILA

    With all that’s on his plate, Jackson Galaxy is still the best friend a cat ever had. He spends much of his time furthering the work of The Jackson Galaxy Project, which is now a Signature Program of GreaterGood.org. One initiative is Cat Pawsitive, supporting shelters through training based on Jackson’s philosophies and techniques, led by trainer-mentors like Samantha Bell, Cat Behavior and Enrichment Lead at Best Friends in Los Angeles. Palm Springs Animal Shelter (PSAS) recently was awarded the Jackson Galaxy Cat Pawsitive grant and will enroll in Cat Pawsitive’s welfare and enrichment program designed specifically for shelter cats. Led by staff member Linda Rodriguez, a small group of staff and volunteers will participate in online training, enrichment exercises, and cat-specific education.

    Another program, Safe Haven, retrofits domestic violence, homeless, and veterans shelters so their residents can live safely with their pets. Safe Haven applies Galaxy’s behavioral expertise to designing cat and dog rooms. Noah Horton, Director of Foundation Relations at GreaterGood. org, points out that, “With domestic violence shelters, over 50% of women won’t leave and seek help if they can’t bring their pets along. Very few of them allow pets. Women either have to find boarding or leave their animals behind. A large percentage of these pets are injured or killed by the abuser.” Horton goes on to say, “A similar thing applies in the homeless and homeless veteran communities—they’ll have a comfort or companion animal and they can’t bring them along. We believe veterans shouldn’t have to choose between sleeping on the street or leaving their animal behind.” Jackson Galaxy says, “We’re providing shelter for those who desperately need it.” Those in need in Southern California can find refuge for themselves and their pets at Jenesse Center in Los Angeles, Laura’s House in Ladera Ranch, Rancho Coastal Humane Society: Animal Safehouse Program in Encinitas, as well as many others.

    If you’d like to help further Jackson’s dream for light, love, and mojo for all animals at risk and the people who work hard every day to save them, go online and lend your support at TheJacksonGalaxyProject.org/Get-Involved.

    Follow all of Jackson’s adventures on Facebook at JacksonGalaxy, Instagram @thecatdaddy, Twitter @JacksonGalaxy, and YouTube at TheCatDaddy66.